May 5 2021 09:30 AM

The social pressure of a farm is real.

Every romantic comedy ever proves just how easy it is to find your true love. I mean, you’re going to meet the person you want, date them for a while, think you’re in love, and then eventually discover they’re not really the love of your life and you’ve actually been in love with your best friend all along, but you just never realized it until someone else came along and you were faced with the prospect of losing them. Right? Then, after you’ve chased them through the airport because they’re moving to Boston to accept their dream job, forced your way onto the airplane, and spontaneously given the most romantic speech anyone has ever heard, you’re going to live happily ever after, right? You know, now that I think about it, I’ve never heard any real person I know say that’s how they met their spouse. Huh.

Dating isn’t easy. Being married isn’t easy. That’s true especially if you’re a farmer. Via my Secrets of Ag project, I received the following email. It’s not the first secret like this I’ve received and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Going out of your comfort zone to try to meet new people is nerve-wracking. Add in being a young farmer trying to live up to decades of ancestral expectations to that stress and it almost feels impossible. With this person’s permission, I wanted to share his thoughts here.

I have always felt that we who grew up on farms have had a harder time trying to find a spouse than other occupations. We naturally don’t get as many opportunities because we don’t get out as much. We work harder and longer hours than most, so that leads to staying home more. We all have heard the usual sayings like “You’ll find someone” or “Just go on You’re a farmer, so you’ll definitely find someone on there.” That advice is usually something I hear from my non-agriculture family and friends. But having been bullied a lot in middle school about being a farmer, I’ve never had confidence around certain people. Because of that, I have always felt like we farmers are not “good enough” to some people. And having that mindset has made dating a struggle. It seems like most people don’t want a person who works that much or someone who doesn’t have a whole lot of time to go on dates or put in time for a serious relationship. Also, the financial situation of a lot of farms isn’t always the best to marry into.

The older I get, the more I find myself thinking about it constantly. My farm is a multigenerational one, and it’s up to me to continue the farm. So naturally, that means you get married and have children who hopefully have an interest in doing what you do. But none of that can happen unless some good luck comes your way. Obviously, you can’t change who you are. But if you really want someone in your life, you’re going to have to make time, which for us farmers can be tougher than most other occupations. It can be especially draining for someone like me who believes that if I don’t have children, I’m a failure to my family. I sometimes believe that I’m the only one who has this mindset or maybe I’m just being exceptionally negative. I sometimes think about it so much that it disrupts my work and I can’t do my job well. It feels like something I’ll always live with.

I don’t know if some people view it as “intimidating” to date someone who owns a big farm or someone who is active in many farm organizations, but then again, it’s ultimately up to that person. Back in the old days, more people grew up on farms, so it came naturally to pair up with someone who did the same work as you. But now, there are fewer farms so there are fewer opportunities. I have even had people tell me that they feel bad for me because they know that it will be and has been tough for me to find someone. It gets to me so much at times that I don’t know whether to be mad or sad about it. Sometimes, I don’t know what to think.

If this is you, I don’t have any matchmaking advice except to give yourself a break. I know that pressure. But chances are, your friends and family just want you to be happy. Maybe they’re not thinking about who you’ll pass the farm to. Maybe they’re not worried about the farm at all. Maybe they’re worried about you. I’ve put a lot of pressure on outside influences when it comes to my own mental health. It’s taken me far too many years to realize that sometimes, working on me helps those outside influences sort themselves out.

Jessica Peters

The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.